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relief point?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Metal Mitch, Dec 28, 2003.


  1. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    NJ
    Hi all. I've seen lots and lots of posts on here about proper neck relief and how to measure it. And several references as to where to measure it, but these can vary widely between posters. Setup guides also vary on this topic; the Bass Player online archive says to measure at the 8th fret, while the Gary Willis guide doesn't specify.

    I've recently been looking for another bass, and noticed a lot of basses (including some high-end models) seem to have their relief point set around the 10th or 11th fret. To my mind, this is a Very Bad Thing(tm). With the relief point that high, it's almost like people are using relief to adjust neck angle - and it seems horrifying to think an expensive neck-thru bass would require this type of band-aid shortcut to get a good setup.

    I've also been working with a new midrange model that seems to require this type of adjustment - with a straighter neck, the saddle screws aren't tall enough to kill the fret buzz. Maybe this neck is set too high in the pocket?

    Many years ago I was taught the relief point for a guitar should be at the 7th fret, and on a bass it should be in the range of the 7th to 9th fret. I've been doing my own setups for 20 years without all the fancy gadgets like capos and feeler gauges, just eyeball the neck from the bridge end and see where it begins to "lift off". I like my relief point to be at the 7th fret, period. I don't use the truss rod to adjust the action, I use it to adjust the neck so the relief point is at it's proper location. The bridge is for adjusting the action.

    Now I'm questioning my way of thinking. I see expensive basses with crappy setups using a relief point high enough to be a cheap neck angle adjustment, then I search posts here and find various comments to the ultimate effect of "the relief point doesn't matter."

    So my question is very simple - where should the relief point be on a bass neck? Does it matter? I'd be very interested in a pro tech or luthier's opinion on this.

    Also, can a wooden neck be "trained" to get the break angle at the point I want it? I was thinking this might be accomplished by combining truss adjustments with varying string tension, by detuning so the neck straightens to the desired point and letting it sit for a few weeks. Not sure it would work though.
     
  2. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    The relief profile is mainly determined by the taper of the neck. Since the neck becomes thinner as it approaches the headstock end of the neck the curve becomes greater, or more acute. The position of the anchor end of the TR has a lesser bearing on the profile but should be considered.

    The actual measurement point is irrelevent because the measuring point does not *have* to be the point of maxmum relief.

    The actual measurement of relief is absolutely useless unless one is trying to repeat a particular setup. The relief in the neck accomplishes one thing and one thing only. It allows the string heigth to be set as low as possible w/out introducing fret buzz. I doesn't matter if you like high, low or medium action. The TR still is properly adjusted the same way.

    A properly adjusted neck has a measured relief that is only a few thousandths of an inch. Such a small amount is almost totally swallowed up by the bridge heigth adjustment. Put another way, the amount of string heigth created by a properly adjusted TR is a VERY small percentage of the total string heigth.

    A totally misadjusted TR can and does affect action (string heigth).
    ----
    "I've also been working with a new midrange model that seems to require this type of adjustment - with a straighter neck, the saddle screws aren't tall enough to kill the fret buzz. Maybe this neck is set too high in the pocket?"
    ----

    I agree that the problem is in the neck pocket. The problem is most likely the tilt, or neck angle which, of course is adjusted by shimming the pocket.

    Hope this is not TMI. :)


    Harrell S.
     
  3. In the case of relief points higher up on the neck, you may be seeing the results of different approaches to trussrod location. Compare your observations to whether the basses have trussrod adjustments at the heel or the headstock. A bass trussrod is usually 24" long. That necessitates making a decision as to which end it is going to have a bias towards.

    I would stick with the 7-9 fret approach. You've accidently backed up your own argument by citing success using the 7-9 fret area in both online setup guides and your own experience. With your 20+ years of experience, I would also trust that quite a bit more than I would anything that contradicts that.

    And, of course, listen to whatever Pkr2 has to say on the subject. I don't think anyone has thunk out setup more than he. In fact, that might be ALL he does! ;)
     
  4. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    "And, of course, listen to whatever Pkr2 has to say on the subject. I don't think anyone has thunk out setup more than he. In fact, that might be ALL he does!" [quote Hambone]

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Hambone. The respect is very much mutual. :)
     
  5. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    NJ
    Thanks a lot guys, you were the 2 people I was really hoping for a reply from. :D

    Bone, I do trust my experience even if my method is somewhat unscientific. ;) But with folks like you guys hanging around here, it sure can't hurt to ask!

    Pkr2, not too much info. Took me a little while to digest, but I think I understand about the neck taper. I guess that would explain why I'm seeing a higher relief point on the neck-thru Spector... even though it has a fat chunky neck, it's taper begins where the body ends. And the bolt-on Jackson just has such a thin severely tapered neck you could probably use it for a bow and arrow. This is why I was asking, and seems to be exactly the info I was looking for, thanks.

    Interesting point, both of them have headstock adjustments. But so does my Ibanez and that neck was the straightest I've ever seen... bought it new, and only let out some relief when I restrung it BEAD. Its relief sits at the 7th fret just fine. My Fender has the heel adjustment, and also sits comfortably at the 7th fret. So it seems the manufacturer's design bias is the other major factor along with the neck taper.

    Thanks again guys, this really was a lesson worth learning as I expand my horizons to new and different basses.
    :cool: